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An Easy Way to Track Spending and Budget

Connor SmithFebruary 8, 2019

Financial Planning

Recently in a meeting with a client they asked me, “What’s the easiest way to determine what I spend?”

Knowing how much you spend is not only helpful in managing your household budget and cash flow, but also in determining how much you may need to save during working years to maintain your desired lifestyle in retirement.  In the past, many people turned to spreadsheets to track their spending, but is there an easier way?  Thankfully, the answer is yes.

With growing developments in technology there are now easier and more efficient ways to track your spending.  Account aggregation software, where you can quickly link a credit card or checking account are a great way to track your spending.  This type of software can even automatically categorize your expenses, which many people find particularly helpful.  With this technology, what used to be a time consuming and manual process is now much simpler.  But where you can find this type of software, and what is the best one to use?

There are some great options out there you may already be familiar with, for example: Quickbooks, or mint.com.  Both of which are offered by Intuit.  The downside to Quickbooks is that there can be a cost associated, and both options require their own set-up and management of an account, which can require remembering yet another online username and password.  Luckily, there is an option where you can track your spending, and all of your household finances in one place.

HFA’s financial planning portal Navigator, is a great tool for tracking and managing your entire financial life in one place.  Navigator allows you to link all of your financial accounts, so you can track your spending, investments, debts, and total net-worth, in one consolidated portal.  Navigator can also automatically categorize your expenses, so there is a minimal amount of manual effort in tracking spending, as many of our clients’ desire.  Another benefit of Navigator’s account aggregation is that Schwab accounts managed by HFA, and any of the accounts that report through your Tamarac client portal also report directly through Navigator.  These sets of accounts report without any effort one your end, as those connections are set-up and managed completely by the financial planners at HFA.  Navigator even offers an option to access your Tamarac client portal with a single mouse-click.

Our clients are often very intrigued by the ability to track their entire financial lives in one consolidated portal.  But, even with the comprehensive relationships we have with our clients, some of them want to keep their personal spending private, so how is that handled?  With Navigator the default option is always to keep spending hidden from your advisor and completely private, so the only person who has access to that data is you.  Fortunately, if a client does want their advisor to have access to their spending data they can grant that ability.

With granting your advisor access to your spending data there are two options.  The first is to allow your advisor to view aggregate spending in specific categories, and any budgets you may have set up in Navigator.  The second is to allow your advisor to have access to your category spending, budgets, and individual transactions.  Our clients that wish to have their advisor view their spending data typically find that the first option is sufficient, in that it both allows their advisor to help them with managing their cash-flow and gives them sufficient privacy in sharing what they spend.

If tracking your spending sounds like something that you would find helpful, or, you would like to learn more about the features of HFA’s financial planning portal Navigator, feel free to reach out to your financial advisor or inquire about Navigator during your next review meeting.